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A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes Paperback – June 5, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Each story is well written, and that is pretty rare in any anthology. Anyone with an interest in Sherlock Holmes and homosexuality is going to need to add this to their collection. --Gay Sherlock Holmes blog

Study in Lavender, edited by Joseph DeMarco, is a new anthology from Lethe Press that features a variety of queer-themed stories set in the Sherlock Holmes canon(s); some are (obviously) about Holmes and Watson's relationship, but others deal with characters like Lestrade or focus on cases that involve queer folks. It's a neat project featuring predominantly early-to-mid-career writers, some who regularly write queer fiction, some who write romance, and some of whom are more familiar to speculative fiction readers Rajan Khanna, Lyn C. A. Gardner, Michael G. Cornelius, and Elka Cloke, for example.


Scholars and fans have been arguing about the implications of queerness in the Holmes canon for a long time it's a popular topic. Two men in an intense emotional relationship, living together, sharing spaces and finances and their lives; well. It's suggestive, and it's intriguing. Both of the most recent big-name interpretations of the Holmes stories the Robert Downey, Jr. movie and the BBC's delightful Sherlock have played with the intensity of the relationship between Holmes and Watson, explored it and made suggestions about it.


This book seeks to do the same, but much more openly, as well as exploring the possibilities of other queer folks whose lives may have intersected that of the Great Detective. --Brit Mandelo for Queering SFF at Tor.com

A positive plethora of corpses, deerstalkers, gas lamps and 'unnatural' acts. Lethe Press and a bevy of talented authors including Stephen Osbourne and Ruth Sims faithfully tint Holmes and his world in a delicious lavender hue. A Victorian joy! ----Erastes, acclaimed gay historical romanticist and author of Mere Mortals

This ''study'' is a brilliant blend of pastiche and homage in which Holmes and his companion-in-sleuthing, Watson, are relocated by 11 contributors from foggy Victorian streets to an alternate storytelling universe. In Stephen Osborne's ''The Adventure of the Bloody Coins,'' for example, Sherlock's mysterious brother, Mycroft, has ''the conversation I've avoided for far too many years'' after his men's club is revealed to be the site of homosexual dalliances in which he participates. In Lyn C.A. Gardners's ''The Adventure of the Hidden Lane,'' Watson expresses his love for Holmes with the plaintive statement, ''But I'm not sure I can live this way forever. I'm the sort of man who needs a companion of the heart, not just the mind.'' And in the anthology's most ambitious story, ''The Well-Educated Young Man,'' a young rent boy's attraction to Sherlock inspires lives that bridge decades. DeMarco has taken the concept of fanfiction a genre where straight characters are re-imagined as gay and elevated it to an admirably inspirational literary level. --Richard Labone for Book Marks

About the Author

Philadelphia-native Joseph R.G. DeMarco has been involved with the mystery genre for decades. He is the author of the acclaimed series of Marco Fontana novels.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Lethe Press (June 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590210387
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590210383
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,765,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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I have to admit, this is a fun read. Somewhere between a good published pastiche short story collection and well-written fan fiction.

I wasn't sure what to expect, thought there'd be more erotica, alright, porn. Slightly disappointed my more puerile side. The tales are gay themed cases brought to our sometimes closeted, sometimes asexual, sometimes realizing, at the end of the tale, Watson is the love of Holmes life, 'consulting detective.' We all know how Holmes HATES blackmailers, so there's a lot of blackmail in these tales.

The introduction was diverting, interesting but there were no references given to the interesting assertions. While I'd love to believe, as the author of the intro writes, that the new BBC Cumberbatch/Freeman version "more or less flat out says Holmes is gay. Watson, who knows?" both the writers and Cumberbatch have said in interviews they view their Holmes as asexual.

I do recommend this enjoyable short story collection. Well written, in character and sometimes even funny.
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Format: Paperback
It is not my practice to review Sherlockian fiction of such a specialized nature, however, I purchased this book because I collect Sherlockian pastiches and felt I needed to add the stories to my database. I made the mistake of reading the first and was caught in a carefully devised trap. The editor must have given very careful directions to the contributors, for I found very little here of a sexual nature. Instead, I found earnest and thoughtful fiction that concentrated on the problems caused by the very harsh laws in Victorian Britain that restricted those whom we would now characterize as "following alternative lifestyles." Indeed, the characters in these pages exhibit all sorts of alternative approaches to life.

My usual practice in reviewing anthologies is to give brief summaries of the individual tales, along with their titles and the authors' names. In this case, most of the stories consist of efforts by the characters to hide, discover and/or to fulfill their life conditions, so that approach would reveal too much of the point of the stories. Further, I have copies of many periodicals and anthologies of "gay" materials and I seldom do more than check through the pages to catalogue titles, authors and characters included along with references to events, historical characters and Canonical, Apocryphal or Untold tales. All ten of these stories demanded attention and compelled sympathy or, at least, concern for the characters. The writing was of very high quality, the characters were well-developed and the plots were intricate and realistic.
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I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I read the introduction, and the editor pointed out specific points in the Canon that seemed to say that Doyle thought Holmes and Watson might be lovers. I figured that if Doyle hinted at it, I might as well look. Another reason I liked the stories were that they were not explicit--the bedroom door remained firmly and discreetly closed. Some stories had gay clients in them, and their preferences were only used as a clue to close the case. Holmes and Watson's deeper relationship was quite clear, when it involved that, but as Holmes remarked in a story "We are English, after all." I was really startled that the only stories I ended up disliking were ones in which the pair were seperated at the beginning, or one of the other of them chose someone else as a partner. This happens in other stories , too--I hate a married Holmes!
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The diversity of authors did not cause any sense of discontinuity in the collection. They were are very good reads and each managed to adopt the voice of the original author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The approaches to the "queering" of Holmes, and, in some cases, Watson were both varied and consistent.

The selection of contributors was inspired. Each story was unique. The authors managed both to inject their own voice but kept their superficial style as "Doylesque" as possible. At least of the stories was outside the strict confines of the Watson recounting modality but managed to fit into the series.

To be reminded of the status of homosexuality in the late 19th century England left me wondering if Doyle was consciously writing about a homosexual or was he simply thinking that women, as love interests or wives, were an impediment to a man's true capacity. So, by leaving Holmes as a "cold" asexual he portrayed what a man could achieve.

it's a great read, I'm glad I picked it up. I'd recommend it for readers who have enjoyed the brilliance of Holmes, the dogged loyalty of Watson, the strange cases, and a suspicion that there was more left unsaid.
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As a long time Sherlock Holmes' fan, and one who wondered at some of the subtle references, this book approached the canon without subverting it, but maintaining it-as though new and more open stories had been found. Some stories are better than others, and this text is PG rated for the most part, perhaps PG-13 in some cases so this is not some lurid take on Holmes and Watson. These are stories that present queer character as characters-their queerness is part of the package. I kind of hope there will be a follow up.
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